Death day: Circles, Kill Your Darlings, Emanuel and the Truth About Fishes

What started as a quick note between films has turned into another end-of-day summary. It’s definitely been a good day, though.

To start it off after Sunday brunch, Circles, directed by Srdan Golubovic: Another slow film (I’ve seen a lot of those thus far) but very powerful. Dialogue was minimal, but sufficient. The story was quite lovely (my favorite word) and lyrical, about redemption and forgiveness. There were lots of long shots of Eastern European men staring off into the distance that gave me time to reflect and feel the characters’ emotions and understand the storyline. I felt quite pleased with myself for following the film and mostly getting the director’s intent (per his explanations during the Q&A). The Q&A was fantastic because, despite the language barrier, the crew was very generous about sharing their thoughts and experience; i.e. they actually answered questions instead  of offering the typical, “well, that’s for you to decide/interpret/whatever.” There were some interesting tidbits shared, including that the Trebinje market in which the murder of Srdan Aleksik occurred was used for the movie scene and that one extra in this scene was at the scene of the crime.

Next was Kill Your Darlings, which received a lot of pre-festival buzz mainly due to the all-star cast. Truthfully, I saw this film because nothing else in the time slot sounded any better; I wasn’t all too excited and expected that it would be a disappointment. However, I was pleasantly surprised by this film about the murder of David Kammerer and the first escapades of the Beat Generation. Good acting (props to Elizabeth Olsen for making the most of a 5 minute part), strong characters, interesting story. The balance between a murder mystery/thriller and coming-of-age story (to paraphrase the director, “who or what do you have to kill to become yourself and become your best”) worked for me. Also, fantastic soundtrack.

I took a brief break for some ultimate frisbee and finished the day at Emanuel and the Truth About Fishes, another film that I had been avoiding, this time because “a hyperstylized … film that vacillates between surrealism and realism” sounded a bit too New Frontier-y to me. Again, I am so glad that I went. SPOILER ALERT, highlight to read: In as few words as possible, this film is about a daughter who has killed her mother (in childbirth) and a mother who has killed her daughter (accident, blames self) and how they help each other heal. Overall, two thumbs up to this female-dominated film (director/screenwriter, cinematographer, 3 complex and generally sympathetic leads). Given the sniffles throughout the theater during the credits, I’m not the only one who thought so. Jessica Biel impressed as Linda, one of her more complex and mature roles to date, and it was fun to meet the talented Kaya Scodelario. I haven’t heard much rumbling about the breakout starlets of 2013, but she makes an obvious candidate (although she has quite a career in England). Our party of family, friends, and neighbors had a brief but interesting discussion about whether this film featured family disfunction (my mother) or a broken family (everyone else). My first reaction was that this film is the new Beasts of the Southern Wild, but after sleeping on it, this film wasn’t quite as tightly knit. The artsy water/fishes theme felt heavy-handed and awkward. I would have loved to hear this explained by the director, but unfortunately there was no Q&A. I must admit that my ballot/vote/grade/thing was lower for this reason.

Now, finally, to bed!



Day 5 – Films #13, #14, #15, #16

SCORE at half-time:

Kate – 16 (distracted by household and other obligations, not fully on vacation)
Nan – 14 (pretty dang good considering she is a full-time student

At this point in the week, I’m moving pretty slowly and am not having an easy time pulling my thoughts together, but will do my best.  Photos coming.  Haiku on suspension.

The Other Dream Team (US Documentary):  This movie is everything that China Heavyweight should have been, but wasn’t.  Through the life/experience of 4 members of the 1988 USSR and 1992 Lithuanian Olympic basketball teams, we watch the political trials and fortunes of Lithuania from post-WWI to the present.  You can’t help but to cheer when they finally beat Russia for the bronze.  But what is with those Grateful Dead t-shirts, and that funny smell in the room?  Another must see.

Can (World Dramatic): The title is confusing.  The “C” in Turkish is pronounced like a soft “J”.  “Can” is probably the equivalent of “John” in English.  It is the name of the child who is the film’s subject.

Can is my favorite film thus far at this festival.  This Turkish story focuses on an infertile couple who decide to “adopt” a child.  The decision has a profound effects on the mother, father and child.  Told in realtime and with flashbacks, the story is emotionally profound, coherent, and authentic.  The child speaks only a few words at the end of the movie, but is luminous throughout.  Go see this film.

Bestiaire (New Frontier):  You have to hand it to the director.  It isn’t easy to create a film, while avoiding any semblance of a storyline.  It also isn’t easy to watch.  If you want to be filmicly challenged, just about anything in the New Frontier is a good choice.  It is good to see on once a year to remind yourself of the extensive boundary of the art of film.

New Frontier Shorts (New Frontier):  This was a collection of four “short” (the most interminable being 39 minutes) experiential films.  I’ll focus on one of them: The Monkey King, the 39 minute one.  There were something like 11,000 submissions to Sundance, of which something like 200 total are chosen for screening.  Pretty long odds, right?  So we’re watching this film and thinking, “You had to choose this one?  So just how bad were the rest of them?”  The annoyance and derisive laughter of the audience grows throughout the screening.  Several viewers walk out.  About 2/3s of the way through the screen goes black, as if it is over, and everyone cheers because it is over.  But no, 20 seconds later the film starts up again with the same Jackson Pollock-style image rotating erratically on the screen.  The audience boos in horror.  When the credits finally start to roll, someone starts to clap.  Another patron yells out: “Don’t do that, they might be faking us out again.”  Like I said, New Frontier once a year is great.  Twice in in an evening, well, uh . . .

That ended Tuesday at Sundance.

Day 1: two films

Wish You Were Here

Cambodian drugs
Alter sense, reality.
Trouble with blond wife.

(World Dramatic)  Don’t do drugs and alcohol on vacation in Cambodia.  Your friend will go missing and you’ll be in trouble with your wife, especially if you slept with her sister.  If you’re lucky, things will end up happily ever after. 

Robot and Frank

“If you release me,
I will wash the dishes now.”
“A gem heist, instead?” 

(Premiere)  How warm and fuzzy can a robot be? Very endearing. Cute, sweet, touching, fluffy, and fun.  A welcome relief from the overwrought edginess of Sundance.